By Ed Thompson

2021 was an odd year because of the pandemic. That doesn’t mean it was a bad year. There were definitely highlights, events that rank up there with some of the best and most memorable of my ministry. The year certainly started out slowly, but once I was fully vaccinated and completed the two-week waiting period, I was off and running. I think I’ve preached almost every Sunday since then.

In my last newsletter article of the year, I have a tradition of looking back and lifting up some of these special events of the last 12 months. I’ve gotten into the bad habit, though, of lumping similar events in one category, which allows me to squeeze in a few more. It’s hard to choose, though, and I think these are all worth celebrating. In no particular order, here are the events that stand out to me:

  • Preaching at churches I haven’t visited before: This year, I made it to Community Presbyterian Church in Arthurdale, Harman Presbyterian Church, Marsh Fork Presbyterian Church, and Union Presbyterian Church. Visiting churches is probably my favorite part of the job, and I’m always tickled to be able to visit churches that I haven’t been to before. I probably need to put an asterisk by Marsh Fork, though, because I moderated their session for a while during my first tour of duty even though it wasn’t in my quadrant, but I had never worshipped with them. Each congregation was very gracious and welcoming, and I look forward to being with them again.
  • Discussion of Quietly Courageous: Although we didn’t have as large a turnout as last year’s book study on White Fragility, I found Gil Rendle’s book very helpful, and each week something new jumped out at me. I was glad to share the book with others.
  • Association of Mid-Council Leaders’ Fall Event, which featured Susan Beaumont, author of How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: This was my first live, in-person continuing education event since 2019. I’m sure that’s part of what made it special. Being with friends and colleagues was also a lot of fun. Plus, I found Susan’s work to be very helpful as she addressed how ministry, as well as the world around us, has changed and keeps changing.
  • Installations: This past year, we installed Mark Boyd at First Presbyterian Church, St. Albans; Se Hwan Isaiah Kim at First Presbyterian Church, Hinton; Parrish Bridges at First Presbyterian Church, Huntington: Annie McMillan at First Presbyterian Church, Parkersburg; and Sharon Bell at Highlawn Presbyterian Church, Huntington. Each one was a special celebration. It was good to experience the joy each congregation and each pastor felt on that special day. These events reminded me of why I am proud to be a Presbyterian.
  • Funeral for Ethan David Click: Ethan is John Holland’s grandson, who lived only a few weeks after he was born. John preached the funeral service and did a wonderful job reflecting on his grandson’s life and sharing the hope that we have because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a sad event, but it was also a celebration, as well as a statement of faith.
  • Staff Retreat at Bluestone: We have had regular staff meetings all along, although a number of them have been on Zoom during the pandemic. At the end of August, our entire staff got together at Bluestone from Sunday evening through lunch on Tuesday. We were able to relax, play some games, and enjoy some good food. However, we also had time to talk about some of the impending changes and what we will need to do to be prepared if/when we sell the presbytery office building. While there are still some unknowns, I feel we made some significant progress because of the time we spent together.
  • Financial Sustainability Task Force: Let me say this group did good work. We accomplished far more than I thought we would, and it all happened far more quickly than I anticipated. My thanks go out to Agnes Brady, Randy Fife, Bob Hanson, James Morley, and Cyndi Taylor. This was probably the best committee/task force I have ever worked with. Because of their efforts, this presbytery is better prepared to face the future.
  • Presbytery meetings: Each meeting this year was outstanding. Diane Givens Moffett, President and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, talked about the Matthew 25 Initiative that challenges the church and individual congregations to address structural racism, systematic poverty, and congregational vitality at our February meeting; Lisa Allgood, executive of Cincinnati Presbytery who has a background in the pharmaceutical industry and is a trained immunocytochemist, talked about the continuing pandemic and the then emerging delta variant at our May meeting; Cindy Kohlmann, the Connectional Presbyter and Stated Clerk at New Castle Presbytery, preached the sermon and gave an outstanding talk on implicit bias at the August Presbytery meeting (our first in-person gathering in 18 months); and Ellie Johns-Kelley, who is the Ministry Relations Officer for our region for the Presbyterian Foundation, spoke on stewardship and the resources available to us through the Foundation at the November meeting.

Reflecting back on these highlights (and there are either 8 or 20, depending on how you want to count them) almost makes me forget that we are in the midst of a pandemic. That’s good because 1) I’m tired of this pandemic and 2) it represents the fact that God is still at work among us and that God hasn’t missed a beat. All things considered, it has been a good year and maybe even a great year. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in 2022.